As the United States workforce gains job offers and opportunities—including, notably, the troubling allure of the gig economy—employers are finding talent attraction and retention increasingly difficult. In the 2019 Crain's Future of Work study—an online survey of professionals from the Crain's New York Business and the Society of Human Resources Professionals New York chapter databases—67 percent of respondents reported that their companies' top challenge is attracting and retaining workforce talent.

The good news? Workplace flexibility provides a boon to both talent attraction and retention. 78 percent of respondents named flexible schedules and location variety as the most effective non-monetary means of talent retention. And the belief is catching on: That proportion of flexibility advocates is up from 67 percent last year.

With statistics like those in mind, flexibility was a hot topic during the Crain's Future of Work Panel in March. Cecile Alper-Leroux, vice president of human capital management innovation at Ultimate Software, said that the ideal of work-life balance has given way to "integrating work and life" and revealed that Ultimate Software uses people analytics research to discover how situations affect certain demographic groups—finding, for example, that the issue of sick children mostly affects mothers. Peter Burke, president and co-founder of Best Company Groups, chimed in to say that as the workforce ages, many workers need flexibility to help care for their grandchildren: "It's more of that flexibility: 'I want to take time off to help my kids.'"

Meanwhile, George Brooks, the Americas Leader of People Advisory Services for Ernst & Young LLP, reported that his company's data has associated retention with commute time. "The most important thing in whether people stay or leave is commuting," he said. "All of our data analytics on people that stay the longest have the best commute." He also said that Ernst & Young has found success giving employees with long commutes technology and flexible work options to cut down on their commuting time, which can have a massive impact on employee health and happiness as well as the environment.

And Beth Keyser, president of Create, asserted during the panel that the particularities of one's work arrangements don't matter "as long as you get the work done."

All of these findings corroborate our own research here at Werk about the positive impact of flexibility on attraction and retention. Our research showed that employees without access to flexibility are twice as likely to be dissatisfied at work, and half of employees are planning to leave their jobs for a more flexible alternative. Employees who can access flexibility, meanwhile, have employee net promoter skills 48 points higher than those without.

And that doesn’t even account for the 51 percent of employees—including 59 percent of high performers—who would not even consider taking a job with less flexibility than they have today, and those who would need an average pay increase of 31 percent to compensate for the relative inflexibility. And a recent FlexJobs study showed that the percentage of professionals who left their jobs due to inflexibility more than doubled(!) between 2014 and 2018. Unsurprisingly, flex consistently ranks as a top factor in job seekers' decision process, particularly among millennial and Gen Z workers.

"Workers have more leverage today than they have had traditionally, thanks in part to the tight labor market," The Motley Fool's Daniel B. Kline recently observed. "That means it's important for employers to understand what employees want their workplace experience to be like."